A minor glitch in the programming of a Dodge Hornet feature has been confusing early customers of the small, sporty crossover. When the Hornet is getting a weak GPS (global positioning system) signal, it may show a red circle on the dashboard with an odd number there, which doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the actual speed.
This only affects cars set to show miles per hour—which is nearly all cars sold in the United States. The company is aware of the problem, has issued a service bulletin, and is working on a software fix.
The issue comes from the automatic sign reading system. The camera detects stop signs, yield signs, and such, and displays the information they convey in the dashboard; when speed limit signs are found, the system reads and translates the speed. However, Canada and Mexico use kilometers per hour while the United States uses miles per hour; so the system was apparently programmed to take that into account and, when detecting itself in the United States, reads mile per hour from the signs. Otherwise is translates from kilometers per hour to miles per hour. When not finding a GPS signal the system doesn’t know where it is, assumes it is not in the United States, and translates miles per hour to miles per hour, resulting in odd speeds—and it shows the speed as part of a red circle rather than giving its usual display.
As one example, it could read a Speed Limit 70 sign as a European 70 km/h and tell the driver that it seems a 43 mph speed limit, shown as a black 43 against a white background in a red circle.
The glitch is a relatively minor issue for a new feature. Generally systems that read street signs tend to perform well with stop signs, but speed limits can cause problems; it’s not unheard of on other brands to insist that the speed limit on a major highway is 5 mph, giving alarms and warnings as a result, because the last speed limit sign the car saw was for a tight turn on an entry ramp.